CMS: Medicare and Pioneer ACOs saved $380M

Accountable care organizations (ACOs) yielded promising results in 2012, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services claimed in a statement released Thursday.

Preliminary data show that Pioneer ACOs and ACOs established through the Medicare Shared Savings Program saved more than $380 million in 2012 due to their emphasis on tangible, positive outcomes rather than fee-for-service, according to the statement.

Although ACOs are meant to create savings long-term, and not necessarily on an annual basis, the statement reads, first-year expenditures were lower than projected for 54 of the 114 ACOs that began in 2012. Of those 54, more than half--29--generated savings of more than $126 million. These ACOs also generated $128 million in savings for the Medicare Trust Funds, according to the statement.

"Today's findings demonstrate that organizations of various sizes and structures across the country are working with their physicians and engaging with patients to better coordinate and deliver high quality care while reducing expenditure growth," HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said in the statement.

CMS will continue to assess the ACO results, but said in the statement that the interim results are within the target range for the first year of the program. The agency projects that most of the net impact from the program will phase-in over the next several years. It plans to release final performance results later in the year.

CMS also credited the ACO program with meeting myriad quality goals, but the statement includes no statistics on quality, as noted by Reuters.

 "Our experience has shown that ACOs can increase quality while lowering costs. As a result of the programs we've initiated, our patients have experienced better access to their primary care physician, higher quality measures, and fewer trips to the hospital," said Kenneth W. Wilkins, M.D. president of Coastal Carolina Health Care, an advanced payment ACO.

A study published in Health Affairs this month indicated that ACO-style care is causing a drop in hospital inpatient use, FierceHealthcare previously reported.

To learn more:
- here's the statement
- read the Reuters article